The Outlook From Brazil
Council on Foreign Relations
9 March 2012
Interviewee: Matias Spektor, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Julia Vargas Foundation, Rio de Janiero
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
Looking at the U.S. election campaign from Brazil, it lacks the "glitter" of previous elections, says Matias Spektor, an expert on American affairs. "Most of the people in Brazil don't have a clear sense of what is at stake in the current election," Spektor says. "That partly is to do with the fact that Brazil, like the United States, is very inward looking. It's a very big country, so it tends to focus on things internal rather than things external." Spektor says that President Obama's visit to Brazil last March was well received, and he expects that Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff's visit to Washington in April will contribute to an improved atmosphere. The two countries have differed over Libya and on other issues, but they have come closer together more recently on seeking a solution in Syria.
Brazil was an at-large member of the Security Council through last year. There's been a certain amount of controversy over the fact that Brazil has abstained on the Libyan resolution that authorized NATO intervention in Libya, and it has not supported strong action against Syria.
Brazil did abstain on the Libya vote, Security Council Resolution 1973. But on Syria, it's actually been quite active on that front. It voted for the condemnation of human rights violations, and of all the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, and China] countries, it's been by far the most vocal against the Syrian regime, but it did abstain on the Libya resolution, along with the BRICs and with Germany. Brazil agreed with the argument that the resolution was exceedingly lax and that it would pave the way for regime change, which, in the end, it did.
There are two very different understandings in Washington and in Brasilia. In Washington, most people think that Resolution 1973 was an astounding success. This was an intervention sanctioned by the Security Council; it was fast, it was relatively cheap, it produced immediate effects, and it brought down a dictator. But from a Brazilian perspective, Resolution 1973 is really quite threatening because it shows that the rules of the game are too easily bent to serve the interests of the most powerful nations, and many people in Brazil think you cannot build an international order that is stable on the back of that kind of behavior.
That led Brazil to put forward a set of propositions that it calls "Responsibility While Protecting," which is seen as a complement to the Responsibility to Protect. It's in its very early stages, but Brazil's been trying to make some noise on this front, trying to say that yes, Responsibility to Protect is here to stay. Resolution 1973 is the first resolution ever to be put forward on the back of the Responsibility to Protect concept. Now we need to regulate those that do the protection. We need to ensure that there are rules that are clear to complicate the selective use of international law.
What is Brazil's position now on Syria? It voted for the General Assembly Human Rights Resolution, but is it against forcing President Assad to step down?
Brazil has been following the Arab League quite closely. It's made it clear that it would like to see a regional solution emerge before the issue gets referred anywhere else. Brazil is in fact sending a special envoy to Damascus in the next few weeks to push on that front. I think what's important to highlight there is that, contrary to what we've seen on the part of Russia and China, Brazil has indeed been quite vocal against the Syrian regime. It's made several condemnations; the President has spoken about it quite openly, and indeed, I think this is one of the areas where there is room for dialogue when she goes to the White House on April 9.
Read the full interview.